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As this Carlisle United fan describes, the campaign to bring back standing to the top levels of football in Britain (which was banned following the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster) has an emotional, atmospheric and economic purpose behind it.
For many football fans standing at a football game is a sentimental return to the past, others argue that sitting down stifles the atmosphere whilst many lower league clubs feel the financial pressure to convert their grounds to all seater stadiums.
Momentum has been generated by the Football Supporters’ Federation’s detailed report on safe standing [PDF] released in the spring, and the campaigners at Stand Up Sit Down’s continual efforts. Their website lists six basic points to explain their position:
- We propose that low risk areas at each ground be set aside for those who wish to stand in front of their allocated seat
- ‘Standing accommodation is not intrinsically unsafe’ Lord Justice Taylor 1989
- Away allocations are being halved, Capacities may be cut, Stands may be closed, Supporters are being ejected and banned.
- Man Utd, Leeds, Newcastle , West Ham and Cardiff have all had ticket allocations cut by the FLA because their supporters stand at away games.
- People are allowed to stand at rock concerts in football grounds. If this is safe why is it not for football supporters?
- This is not a campaign just about standing but is about a choice for all supporters.
An Early Day Motion proposed in the House of Commons, which reads as follows, has the support of 145 Members of Parliament:
That this House urges the Government to re-examine the case for introducing small, limited sections of safe standing areas at football grounds; further urges the Government to recognise that there is widespread support for such areas, and that improvements in stadium design and technology mean that with rigorous safety specifications standing areas could be safely re-introduced; and calls on the Minister concerned to convene a meeting of representatives of the police, supporters, Premier League clubs and the Football Licensing Authority to find a way forward.
The campaign will receive further grassroots support when Wycombe Wanderers host a “Fans United” day in support of safe standing, in their televised game on September 9th. All of the 145 MPs who have signed the above motion have been invited, and fans from all other league clubs are being urged to attend in their club colours, as a show of united support for the return of standing.
The German example of safe standing areas has proved to be influential, and in the U.S., hundreds regularly stand on bleachers at places like Toyota Park with very little problem. No-one wants a return to the dilapidated terraces of the 1980s, but that is not what is being proposed. Stadiums will always be dominated by seating, as most people that attend games are, basically, spectators, participating only periodically in the atmosphere. But there ought to be room for supporters, too, who really need to be standing freely together to provide the continual collective passion that gives football its intensity.
Without reasonably priced standing areas, that passion is drained from the grounds. One suspects that Premier League clubs will not lead any return to standing. But perhaps this is something that Football League clubs — from the Championship on down (currently, standing is allowed only below the Championship) — can further use to differentiate themselves from the prawn sandwich elite, if only the government would relax the regulations to allow it.